Reforming Gender Training in Peace Support Operations
In need of reform:
Various challenges of governance arise with the existing structures in place providing gender training in Peace Support Operations (PSOs). For instance, there is a very high number of actors involved in the process from policy design to implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation. An example of this is the presence of a myriad of peacekeeping training centres providing courses all over the world. Yet it is well-known that many peacekeepers are not trained on gender before deployment. The existence of such a high number of actors/ entities is not bad in itself as the more the better. However, this situation triggers problems in terms of following up the numbers of trained personnel or collectively monitoring and evaluating impacts (successes and failures).
Another important problem has a lot to do with the fact that gender training in peace operations is a national matter. The UN and NATO do not have the power to dictate to their member states what they should do whenever it comes to that matter. Despite the training and materials that the UN’s Integrated Training Service (ITS) and NATO’s Nordic Center for Gender in Military Operations (NCGM), and the peacekeeping training centres provide, and despite other support such as counsel and guidance, in the end the responsibility falls much more on the shoulders of the member states/ contributing countries who send uniformed and civilian personnel to these peace operations. Consequently, in some operations, “although pre-deployment training is mandatory, some civilian personnel continue to deploy” without providing gender training.
All of these demonstrate that a local approach to gender training throughout the whole training cycle is required. This is what I call the argument of localism. I argue that gender training in Peace Support Operations needs reform from below and this should be implemented by adopting the following framework.
Strategy 1: Localize
In-country training gives strategic advantages. For instance, localizing means much more time is allotted to the learning and internalization process. This also allows the provision of gender training on a more continuous basis. Most importantly, it is worth remembering that gender as a concept is subjective. It is understood and interpreted within the local context. It has a lot to do with local values, attitudes, beliefs, and identities. Therefore, localizing as a practice and approach supports respectful, empathetic, non-aggressive practices to address gender issues. The locals are the most qualified to educate, train, and teach without confronting the local culture, customs, ideas etc. But localizing does not mean that international training is not efficient (when, for instance, the locals travel to big cities in the global north to get training). The expertise and experience of international trainers are also important. It is possible to localize this practice by sending more international trainers to conduct ‘Training of the Trainers’ (ToT) courses among a larger number of local gender advisors or trainers.
Strategy 2: Optimize resource-allocation
The resources cover financial, human, and technical aspects (e.g.: infrastructure, equipment etc.) Budget is a controversial issue in peace operations. Fortunately, there are other solutions such as Canada’s Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations to improve gender training in UN Peacekeeping Operations. However, using this mechanism is not enough. It is well known that the top Troop-contributing countries (TCCs) of the UNPKOs come from developing nations. Many of them do not have the infrastructure nor the human and financial resources to provide such training. Most of the peacekeeping training centres are located at the regional level or in big cities. For institutions such as NCGM for instance, one has to go to Sweden to participate in the training. This requires a significant budget. It would be less costly to optimize resources by investing the majority of the budget in the local training mentioned above.
Strategy 3: Maximize Reach
This strategy is related to resource allocation. Training at the local level means there is a possibility of training more people. Instead of funneling most of the budget into training key leaders and only bringing a few people to training centers in big cities and in the global north, there would be better and more impactful results if resources (financial and human) were optimized by directing them to the local military and police, having in mind that this would maximize reach as well. Indeed, doing so would reduce cost (e.g.: reduce the travel budget) and allow the training of a larger number of actors. It is well known that there has been a tendency to train leadership and gender advisors. But lower-ranked officers must be trained as well. After all, who else other than these officers, members of the local forces, gets sent to these operations?
Strategy 4: for meaningful use of innovation and technology
Finally, one of the best practices that is currently being suggested and obviously implemented in peace operations is online training. For instance, all UN peacekeeping personnel must complete training on sexual harassment when they start their jobs. NATO also has self-paced online gender courses. The problem with these courses is that they are self-paced and only last between one and two hours and obviously they are only done once. There is also the option of doing the course again. Although this is a very good approach, in a certain way online gender training entertains discrimination. Only those who have the infrastructure can benefit from it. And again, most of the personnel in those peacekeeping operations (the UN’s for example) live in developing countries. That being said, it is not yet clear whether online training is effective in peace operations. But indeed, technology should be used to support gender training. For example, to support the in-country training I suggested earlier, online training gives the opportunity to invite as many guests as possible to discuss their experience during online conference calls. The benefit from doing so is that experiences from all over the world (even of those who are located in difficult places) can be shared during these training sessions. Obviously, this is only valid for those who have access to internet.
Strategy : Gender training as indicator
Whenever it comes to talking about indicators relating to gender mainstreaming in UN and NATO peace operations and when one looks at the reports, for example, those of NATO’s Committee on Gender Perspectives, the number of women joining the troops and national defence forces is the most commonly used indicator. It is high time to consider other indicators. Gender training in local military and police academies should also be used as an indicator. Doing so would provide additional measures that could be used to monitor gender training within the framework of the implementation of the WPS agenda other than simply the number of women participating in peace operations: the number of local officers trained (all ranks and gender). This is a way to hold accountable the member states/ contributing countries.
Dr Velomahanina Razakamaharavo is a Policy Leader Fellow at the School of Transnational Governance, EUI in Florence, Italy and a Research Associate/ Scientific Collaborator at UCLouvain in Belgium. She works on gender in UN and NATO peace operations as well as the implications of Artificial Intelligence in the fields of peace and security. She also works on the dynamics of conflict recurrence and peacebuilding processes. The views expressed in this paper are solely the author’s.